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5 Signs Someone Is Manipulating You — And How To Confront Them

Are you being manipulated? Ask yourself these five questions to check.

Manipulation

Seasoned manipulators have go-to tactics to turn you into a puppet. The insidious, and potentially dangerous, thing about the situation is that you may not even realize someone is pulling your strings — until it’s too late. 

Manipulation is a complex dynamic, according to Dr. Joni Johnston, a forensic psychologist and author of “Serial Killers: 101 Questions True Crime Fans Ask.”

A lot of times it is a slow process. It can be gradual,” she said. “It can start out seeming like a great relationship, almost like the frog in the boiling water.” 

In that amphibian fable, signs that disaster is creeping up go unheeded, and that can easily happen to people. That’s one of the takeaways of “Mastermind of Murder,” returning Sunday, July 10 at 7/6c on Oxygen. In the cases that are covered, control turns corrosive — even deadly. 

In advance of the Season 2 premiere, we asked Johnston to identify strategies manipulators use. Here are five common ones:

– They separate you from your inner circle.

Isolation “is a classic tactic,” said Johnston, explaining that it serves a number of functions. It gives the other person control by dividing you from your support system and any sounding boards. 

“It’s easy to lose that perspective, especially in the throes of romance,” Johnston told Oxygen.com, adding that being monopolized is often presented as well-intentioned caring. “It’s oftentimes framed sometimes as, ‘Oh, I just love you so much, I can't stand being without you.’” 

– They feed you a steady diet of lies.

If you observe that someone constantly lies to you and then justifies the deception, be aware ... be very aware. “When something happens over and over again, you can’t ignore it. Pathological lying is a big red flag,” said Johnston. 

– They gaslight you

In the classic 1944 movie, “Gaslight,” a husband plays mind games on his wife to make her think she’s going nuts. Nearly 80 years later, it still goes on. “Gaslighting can take a lot of different forms,” said Johnston, adding that minor incidents have a cumulative impact. 

“It can be denying saying or doing something that you know the other person said or did,” she explained. “It can be when someone criticizes you and puts you down and then dismisses your reaction and says, ‘Just kidding. You’re so sensitive.'"

Preying on insecurities is a device in the manipulator’s toolbox. 

– They always play the victim

Avoiding blame and responsibility — for anything and everything — can be a way to exert control. It’s also a way to keep another person off-balance. When it comes to manipulators, “they’re always playing the victim,” said Johnston. “No matter what happens, they’re never to blame. It’s your fault. It’s their ex’s fault. It’s their boss’ fault.”

Don’t let reality get twisted. 

– They hustle you, in every sense

“If somebody loves you and cares about you, they want you to think your plans and decisions through. They want you to be sure and feel secure,” Johnston said.

On the other hand, if somebody is selling you — and manipulation is like a sales strategy — they’ll rush you into things that may have lasting effects. It’s called getting hustled for a reason. Insist that you need time to consider decisions. 

“Some of these red flags may be more dangerous than others,” Johnston said.

If a pattern emerges they indicate a need to take time to do a reality check and to speak up. 

That said, getting an “I’m sorry” isn’t an automatic fix.

“Sincere apology,” she said, “involves taking responsibility and changing behavior.”

For more about manipulation and true crime, watch “Mastermind of Murder,” premiering Sunday, July 10 at 7/6c on Oxygen.

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